Patton - C [Prohibited Records - 2015]Patton is a French math rock band, unrelated both to Mike Patton and the instrumental Pittsburgh band, who apparently named themselves Patton after the war general. Why this French band used the name is not clear, as none of the band members are named Patton. Their new album, "C", is a concise 8 song record, 35 minutes in length.
Sharply punctuated, hard-strummed guitar chords form a twanging percussive backbone to the bands' abrupt & odd-metered sound. The band deftly moves from one meandering, complex riff to another, yet maintains a sense of expressive melody throughout, a balance of heady jazz fusion reverie and soulful blues and folk. There is both naive hope and melancholy, presented boldly and honestly, and on the surface. The carefully considered chord progressions and interlocking arpeggiations are the highlight of the album, a skillful maneuvering through countless subtle gradations of consonance.
Their sound is similar to Deerhoof (or the lesser known Belgian band Schnaak) in its densely composed angular technicality and existential higher minded intent, the way they engage in unpredictable rhythms without losing sight of the melody and feeling in their music. In terms of production and timbre, the band takes cues from Stereolab, layering their sound with warm, rich fuzz bass and synthesizer tones, often set to a buzzing pure saw wave or Farfisa-esque organ. I'm inclined to say it sounds fantastic.
For "Apollo", the band switches to acoustic guitars, a very Moog-y solo appears in the second half, and the musicians' 70's roots are revealed. This note-heavy style of music owes itself to the original era of progressive rock, more than anything.
The vocals, which feel a bit like an afterthought, are rhythmically spoken phrases, with an absurd sort of tone to them. In the track "Staples Twine Turf", the (meaningless?) title phrase is repeated, at first in a monotone voice, and then with various whiny and near-shouted inflections. This kind of theatric vocal delivery reminds me of the self aware avant-rock of bands like Lemon Kittens. I'm not sure the voices add enough to the music to justify their inclusion, really, as they only make the band easier to laugh at, or dismiss as pretentious. Coming off as sarcastic, hesitant, and generally less-than-sincere, they do the guitar playing a disservice.
The most memorable things about "C" are the inventive, clever and beautifully emotive guitar writing, and the entirety of "Dead Flies Song", a curiously minimalist composition which stops to drone tensely on an ethereal chord frequently, yet contains far too much restless energy to be 'post rock', the most original and strange piece to be found here. All in all, a great album of musician's music and chordal brainfood, with a couple awkward moments. Recommended for fans of Deerhoof or Stereolab, though not quite on the level of either.Josh Landry